New business magazines try to make the best of a bad situation

The Founder, issue #1

With the economy looking increasingly uncertain, take your mind off the turbulent stock market by looking at two new business magazines devoted to corporate success: The Founder and Rich Weekly.

The inaugural issue of The Founder (创业家) features a cover story on entrepreneur-of-the-moment Zhu Xinli, who explains why he decided to sell his fruit juice company Huiyuan to Coca-Cola. The acquisition faces pressure both from the government's new anti-trust law, which might apply in this case should the resulting company control too much of the beverage market, and from segments of the public who fear that Coca-Cola's first action upon acquiring Huiyuan would be to eliminate the brand altogether.

Zhu's been criticized for selling off the company he built with his bare hands over the course of sixteen long years. In this issue, he defends his decision in a statement that suggests he's taken the lessons of The Art of War to heart:

People in today's business world always feel that they have to stay in business until the very end, and they can't duck out in the middle. That's stupid. Is death the only way out? You draw your sword to win the fight, not to lose it. We fight not because we're warriors — we want to preserve our strength. We attack the enemy to protect ourselves, and we protect ourselves so that we can attack the enemy. Entrepreneurs and military strategists are the same. I don't know what logic they're using. Companies must be run according to the rules of business. Not everyone who starts something has to see it through to the end, have his son keep going for fifty years and his grandson for fifty more, and then they're heroes. That doesn't make any sense.

This issue includes profiles of other entrepreneurs, and the first few pages contain congratulatory remarks from famous domestic businessmen (see here for a collection).

Magazine president Niu Wenwen served as editor of China Entrepreneur from 1999 through this year. Writing about the launch, Niu grants that it might seem foolish to start up a magazine devoted to entrepreneurship during an economic downturn, but he notes that Fortune Magazine was founded in 1930, four months after the market crash on Black Tuesday.

This is not the first magazine to bear the name 创业家: an earlier incarnation was published by provincial government of Hunan under the English title Entrepreneur (registration number CN43-1351/D), but that seems to have folded in 2004. The current magazine is published out of Beijing (CN11-5747/F).

Will it have more staying power its predecessor? Maybe in 75 years we'll be looking back on The Founder as one of the venerable institutions born at the start of Great Depression II.

Style supplement
Rich Weekly, October 2008

The test launch of Rich Weekly (富) came included as a free supplement with a mid-September issue of China Newsweek. Published out of Changchun (registration number CN22-1378/F) with editorial offices in Beijing, Rich is made up of two separate sections: the main, business-oriented magazine, and a Style supplement, which focuses on travel and lifestyle topics.

The cover of the October issue promises strategies for cashing in on the economic crisis, which allows them to pull out this hoary chestnut:

"Crisis." Lin Yongqing likes to reflect on that word. In the view of the founder of ChinaValue, Chinese vocabulary is full of dialectic significance that can unite contradictory things into one word. A crisis (危机) is a difficult position, but it can be understood as "a dangerous opportunity" (危险的机会) — there's opportunity and it's exciting. Before founding his company, Lin worked at Tsinghua Tongfang and Intel for several years, and he discovered that those large companies weren't afraid of "cooldowns." They even looked forward to these periods as an opportunity to knock out their competitors.

The magazine is surprisingly optimistic about the future, particularly in light of its rundown of 2008's unfortunate events:

In 2008, a year in which the Chinese people felt certain that they were going to achieve great things, blizzards and earthquakes brought about immense loss of life and fortune. Then the global economy was rocked by the subprime issue, and inflation, rocketing exchange rate, and an unprecedented stock crash gave people at all levels a taste of wealth erosion.

And in fact, this magazine is a "victim." Since the beginning of the year, paper prices have risen 30% — each day brings a new price. And the outlook for advertising and circulation is not optimistic, leaving us with no choice but to think of ways to cut costs even as we launch.

Rich Weekly claims to have a website but whether because of cost-cutting or some other reason it doesn't appear to be up.

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